ERA Architects

Uncovering the potential of Toronto’s laneways

A diagram of a coach house typology

Elements of a coach house: A) Simple / utilitarian, B) 1.5 storeys, C) Laneway, D) Inspired by, but in contrast with the components of the main house, E) Defensive, given the exposed setting to lane

Toronto’s laneways are having a moment. For decades, these alleyways were an underused, often neglected, space in a city in need of room to expand and grow. With Toronto City Council approving the adoption of laneway suites across the Toronto and East York district in July after a year-long pilot program, more attention is rightfully being given to these overlooked spaces.

While this is an important step in the right direction to add gentle density and increase the diversity of housing stock in Toronto’s established neighbourhoods, we’re equally excited for the opportunity to conserve and adapt these important pieces of historical infrastructure for reuse.

A historic laneway coach house

Coach Houses, like this one at 10 Madison, were the primary built form along Toronto’s historic laneways.

Toronto’s history is embedded in its laneways – even in many of their names. Some pay homage to local businesses, such as Ice Cream Lane in Danforth Village, named after Maple Leaf Dairy located nearby. Others bear names as an acknowledgement of the original Indigenous peoples of the land, such as Iroquois Lane and Meegwetch Lane. Peperonata Lane in Little Italy even has a more modern, community namesake, inspired by a local resident’s pepper fest, a tradition celebrated with neighbours each year.

The built forms along laneways can also tell us about the history of these spaces and their uses.

Coach houses were the primary built form of laneways. They usually had a large service opening, like a garage door, on the laneway side. Historically, coach houses were utilitarian ancillary structures, subordinate but related to a grander principal residence. Simple and defensive, they had modest elevations, and the side facing the back alley had only small additional openings, to shield their inhabitants. Their ground floors housed carriages and stables; the grooms slept above, in quarters discreetly tucked into mansard or gable roofs.

A map of Toronto's laneways overlapped by the Heritage Conservation Districts.

This map shows Toronto’s laneways in black, overlapped by the city’s Heritage Conservation District’s in yellow. These spaces are where historic laneway structures are most prevalent.

Approximately 10 per cent – or nearly 30 km – of Toronto’s laneways are entirely within or along the boundaries of areas designated under the Ontario Heritage Act as Heritage Conservation Districts. These are the places where historic coach houses are most prevalent.

An example of a laneway home in Toronto.

This Beaconsfield laneway suite by Creative Union Network is an adaptive reuse project of a former carriage house in historic Toronto. It’s a prime example of the kinds of opportunities available to reimagine and restore heritage elements in HCDs. Photo: Andrew Snow Photography.

Distilling the essential built form of coach houses may be a good starting point for designing laneway housing in Toronto’s historic neighbourhoods. “Laneway Suites” says City of Toronto planner Graig Uens, “allow for gradual change and a range of housing while acknowledging the typical low-rise and, in some cases, heritage character of the City’s existing residential neighbourhoods.” Laneway suites are intended to fit within an established context; it stands to reason that an appreciation of their historic predecessors should inform their design.

It can also reach past design and into use and function.

Toronto’s laneways historically were mixed-used.  In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, they housed services, from stables and dairies, to blacksmiths, and were avenues for coal delivery. With that in mind, what role should a 21st century mixed-use laneway play in our city?

A laneway house recently readapted from a carriage house.

Toronto’s new bylaws on laneway suites even require two available parking spaces for bikes, as shown in this photo of Creative Union Network‘s laneway project. Photo: Andrew Snow Photography.

Communities and organizations are looking to revitalize laneways for uses beyond housing. The Laneway Project is helping community groups revitalize their alleys through greening and art projects. The non-profit is also leading a study to test the feasibility of a laneway market in Toronto, and their partnership with the Canadian Urban Institute on the Laneways as Bikeways project is reframing laneways as a potential solution to gaps in the city’s cycling network.

With that in mind, mixed-use structures in laneways have endless possibilities, from bike shops to service cyclists on their commutes, to cafés and restaurants for community gathering. While housing opened up the conversation about activating the city’s laneways, the potential of these spaces to build more mixed-use, complete and walkable neighbourhoods hasn’t yet been fully realized.

Though many historic laneway structures have been lost to time, those that remain can give us valuable information about the creative early history of how we’ve occupied laneways. They may even unlock creative solutions for the future.

An edited version of this article appeared in the Spring-Summer 2019 issue of Spacing Magazine.

WexPOPS: Pop-up Plaza

WexPOPS is a pilot of the plazaPOPS project, an initiative spearheaded by Daniel Rotsztain, aka The Urban Geographer, and Brendan Stewart (OALA, CAHP), professor of landscape architecture at the University of Guelph, and former Associate at ERA Architects.

In an interview supporting his recent book Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure can help fight Inequality, Polarization and the Decline of Civic Life, NYU sociologist Eric Klinenberg points to an idea that many urbanists take for granted but that the general public may not: that “the social life we experience doesn’t exist in a vacuum; there’s a context for it. It can be supported or undermined by the places where we spend time”. In other words, there is a relationship between the design of our physical environment, and the social life that it enables or does not.

Klinenberg urges his readers to think about the types of places that foster connections and relationships between people and that build strong communities not as nice to have’s, but as an essential infrastructure that buttresses the foundations of democracy, inoculating society from many of the challenges that define our current moment. He argues that ‘social infrastructure’ will only become more critical as communities are forced to adapt to the challenges associated with climate change.

Closer to home, the Evergreen Foundation’s Towards a Civic Commons Strategy proposes a similar vision for “a network of public places and facilities that enable communities to learn, celebrate, express collective actions, collaborate and flourish, together”.

Inspired in part by these ideas, for the past year and a bit we’ve been working on an experiment to test the potential of creating a type of civic commons / social infrastructure within the ubiquitous strip mall parking lots that define the main streets of post-war neighbourhoods across the country and that are home to millions of Canadians.

Open from July 5th to August 17th at the iconic Wexford Plaza at Lawrence Avenue East and Warden Avenue in Scarborough (the setting of the recent eponymous indie film), WexPOPS is the result of over a year of community consultation, planning, and design work, and a collaboration that involved 19 Master’s of Landscape Architecture (MLA) students from the University of Guelph, graduate business and planning students from U of T’s Rotman CityLAB fellowship program, a 15 member strong local working group, and partnerships with the Wexford Heights BIA, The City of Toronto’s Public Realm Unit, Scarborough Arts, the TRCA, the Arab Community Centre of Toronto, Mural Routes, the Working Women Community Centre and a number of local businesses who supported the initiative in various ways including the Kirakou family — the owners of the Wexford Restaurant, and the entire plaza — who are generously hosting the project.

Funded by Parks People’s Public Space Incubator Grant, generously supported by Ken and Eti Greenberg and the Balsam Foundation, as well as the City of Toronto’s BIA Kickstarter Fund, the big idea of the project is to test the viability of exchanging parking spots for community gathering space, all on private commercial property. It’s a new take on POPS — privately owned public space — experimenting with the city building potential that commercial business owners can exercise by enhancing community life in the neighbourhoods they serve, while hopefully also seeing an uptick in business.

Similar strip malls are found throughout Toronto’s inner suburbs and in post war neighbourhoods all over Ontario and Canada. In many cases, especially in Toronto, the retail remains vibrant and local, serving as important settings for community life, and features numerous restaurants and shops serving food and offering goods from all over the world. The Wexford Heights BIA, a 2 km strip running between Victoria Park and Birchmount along Lawrence Avenue East, features over 60 restaurants, and has been celebrated by food columnists as a major dining destination.

The project grows out of Daniel’s fascination with the strip malls he frequented in his youth, culminating in his 2018 MLA thesis at U of G which was overseen by Dr. Karen Landman and Brendan Stewart. It builds on Daniel’s work as an artist, examining the setting of Toronto’s public life including All the Libraries Toronto, his documentation of all 100 public library branches in the city, and a recent residency at Yorkdale Mall that asserted the centrality of private shopping centres in Toronto’s social geography. It also builds on Brendan’s citizen engagement Tower Renewal work with ERA, including parking lot to community space conversion projects at the East Scarborough Storefront (2010 – 2015) and Ridgeway Community Courts (2015-2017) in Mississauga.

The final design of WexPOPS features a series of modular planters, benches, tables and umbrellas, all clad in marine plywood and trimmed in cedar. Occupying 10 parking spaces, the installation creates a comfortable and sheltered ‘room’ in the middle of the parking lot, and frames dynamic views of the strip mall behind. The carpentry was done by Guelph based Ben O’Hara Design, and all of the components were designed as modules that could be re-configured into different arrangements to suit different future site conditions, and to flat pack for easy assembly and storage.

Six design concepts for the project were developed through a series of community workshops by student teams in a graduate community design studio at the U of G this past winter, and the ideas most favoured by the working group and a wider online engagement were incorporated into the final design. For example, one student team developed the colour scheme for the project, which includes vibrant red, orange and yellow and was inspired by the spice markets of the Middle East. Another student team proposed a space of lush and immersive greenery, an idea that resonated in the community and which dominates the final design.

In all, WexPOPS features over 500 plants, which are planted in colour coded pots: red denoting native perennial wildflowers and grasses, orange for annuals, and yellow for edibles. The pots were created from salvaged recycling pails from the University, and were painted and drilled for drainage. The annuals and edibles were grown in campus greenhouses and donated to the project, and all of the native plants, grown by Native Plants in Claremont, will be donated to the TRCA to be planted in a local stretch of the Meadoway this fall.

12 local youth from an after school program run out of the Arab Community Centre of Toronto, located across the street, have been hired as site supervisors, stewarding the site through daily watering, managing waste and setting up and taking down umbrellas.

At night, LED lighting within the benches creates a welcoming atmosphere, and the illuminated strip mall signage creates a dynamic backdrop. During several evenings this summer, including an upcoming event on August 17th, the WexPOPS stage (with a mural designed by Echo Railton and painted by community volunteers) offers music and dance performances by local artists, co-curated by Scarborough Arts as well as urban ecology workshops lead by the TRCA.

WexPOPS is designed to be a hub of social activity for the local community, but also to attract visitors from beyond — a desire articulated by our working group who wanted to “put Wexford on the map”. The space features a neighbourhood business directory which encourages people to patronize the local restaurants and businesses (and eat takeout in the space), and a ‘dot map’ which prompts visitors to place a sticker on a map showing where they live, the idea being that this data will help the team evaluate the impact and reach of the project. The signs were donated in kind by CAS Signs Co, a printer located in Wexford Plaza a few stores down from WexPOPS. The ‘Wexford Wish Tree’, inspired by the shape of the sumac and CNC milled by local AC Waterjet, poses a different question every two weeks and invites visitors to write their answer on a horticultural tag and tie it to the tree for others to read.

WexPOPS may be popping down after August 18, but the proof of concept has already inspired many to reconsider the potential of privately-owned strip mall parking lots as community gathering places, including, perhaps most importantly, the Kirakou family — the property owners and our project hosts. To more concretely determine the impact of the project, the plazaPOPS team is conducting a public life study, modelled on methodologies pioneered by Gehl Architects, and is also studying the impact on parking and local business activity. The Rotman students, guided by Prof. Rafael Gomez, prepared a background study that informed the research design.

Project findings will be published later this year in an exit report, but already, many working in the urban design, community arts, and economic development sectors have noted the potential for applying the plazaPOPS concept beyond Wexford Heights, understanding the value of creating space to support the social life of communities in strip malls across Toronto, Ontario, and Canada.

You can find more information about the project and it’s design and planning process at www.plazaPOPS.ca and follow the project on twitter and Instagram @plaza_pops. You can reach the team at plazapops@gmail.com

This guest article appears courtesy of Brendan Stewart. Photos: Kat Rizza.

 

Affordable, High Efficiency Tower Living

ERA Principal Graeme Stewart addresses a crowd in front of Ken Soble Tower alongside MP Adam Vaughan during the May 21, 2019 National Housing Strategy announcement.

ERA Principal Graeme Stewart addresses the crowd in attendance for the National Housing Strategy announcement at Ken Soble Tower on May 21, 2019, alongside MP Adam Vaughan and Hamilton Mayor, Fred Eisenberger.

ERA is thrilled to be leading the rehabilitation of the Ken Soble Tower which will bring affordable housing options to the city of Hamilton as the first retrofit Passive House tower in Canada. The project recently received $10 million in federal funding which will help transform the tower and set the standard for industry-wide, ultra-low energy retrofits needed to maintain thousands of apartments across Canada.

Built in 1967, the Ken Soble Tower is one of the oldest high-rise multi-residential towers in CityHousing Hamilton’s portfolio. However, the 18-storey post-war tower, which overlooks the Hamilton harbour, has been in decline for several years. In line with our Tower Renewal framework, we are rehabilitating 146 tower units to create accessible and affordable long-term housing for seniors.

ERA’s involvement with the Ken Soble Tower Transformation began two years ago when a feasibility study was conducted for CityHousing Hamilton. The results of this study prompted CityHousing Hamilton to retrofit the building instead of rebuilding which would allow for significant improvements at a much lower cost than a new build. Slated for completion in 2020, the revitalization of the Ken Soble Tower will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 94% while providing residents with accessible, barrier-free living, high-quality housing, and community amenities.

Not only is the Ken Soble Tower Transformation the first retrofit of its kind in North America, it is also one of the largest EnerPHit certified projects in the world. As one of the most ambitious social housing transformations in Canada, the Ken Soble Tower will pave the way for the nation’s aging housing supply – shifting the conversation from aging affordable housing as a liability to affordable housing as a district landmark.

Read Alex Bozikovic’s take on the project in the Globe and Mail:
https://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/art-and-architecture/article-a-hamilton-ont-public-housing-tower-gets-a-new-life-as-a-green/#comments

Read more about this project and about Passive House standards:
https://canada.constructconnect.com/dcn/news/projects/2019/03/hamiltons-ken-soble-tower-rebirth-passive-house-first

https://www.chch.com/city-seeks-new-retrofit-for-ken-soble-tower-on-hamilton-harbour/

New Approaches to Old Housing

For the past decade, Tower Renewal has been defined by research, policy design and action. Through multi-sectoral partnerships, best-practice and primary research, our work has evolved into program design, capacity building, and on-the-ground project implementation with a wide range of stakeholders.

This ongoing program of ‘research to action’ was featured in Architectural Design Magazine special issue: Calling All Architects: New Approaches to Old Housing. The issue showcases international leaders who are pushing the boundaries of traditional architectural practice in rethinking housing and shares the experiences of architects who have been expanding their practices to provide innovative housing solutions by revitalizing old buildings—instead of the typical process of demolition and building anew.

“Can architects be more than passive participants in a broken [housing] system?”
AD Magazine

This issue builds from the practices showcased at the “Tower, Block and Slab” Symposium hosted by the New York Architecture League in 2016, featuring among others Karakusevc Carson Architects, Frederick Druot Architect, and Architects for Social Housing who have become ongoing collaborators in Tower Renewal.

The issue showcases how architects and organizations across the world are shaping and developing a new medium of practice in tackling issues of housing. Through the Tower Renewal Partnership, CUG+R, and ERA, architects Graeme Stewart and Ya’el Santopinto engage in work ranging from advocacy and policy development to technical development to create the context to make Tower Renewal a reality—something Stewart calls a “one-two punch”. “We have a research arm though a non-profit [CUG+R] as well as a practice arm [ERA] where we build things,” Stewart explains. It is this structure that has helped advance and implement building retrofits and site-wide renewal. “It’s those kinds of activities that are really outside the framework of a traditional practice, but are actually exploring the nuts and bolts of land-use planning, building codes, zoning, taxation and other barriers that have made Tower Renewal effective,” adds Santopinto.

Featured as one of the books designers should read in 2019, we are thrilled to have been included in Architectural Design Magazine’s “Housing as Intervention” Issue 4, Volume 88.

Guest post by Andrew Cohrs for the Tower Renewal Partnership.

Immigration and Daily Life in the Ward

We are very excited to announce the latest installation of the ‘Armoury Street Dig’ series of exhibits at Toronto City Hall. Commemorating and interpreting the histories of St John’s Ward, one of Toronto’s first points of settlement for many newcomers throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, the exhibit “Immigration and Daily Life in the Ward: Addresses and Artifacts” opens Wednesday December, 19th 2018 and will be on public view in the main floor rotunda until mid-2019.

This continuing exhibit focuses on immigration and daily life in the Ward neighbourhood explored through unearthed artifacts from the Armoury Street dig site, city directories, fire insurance plans, tax assessment rolls, and census records to provide a view of The Ward between 1840–1970. The research in this new installation seeks to understand the movement of people into The Ward, paired with objects reflecting the relationships that individuals form with their places of origin. In the words of Holly Martelle, principal archaeologist at TMHC,

“The presence, abundance, and patterning in artifacts over space and time often hint at various aspects of the identity and culture of a site’s occupants. By itself, archaeology paints a picture of the past, albeit a slightly blurry one. Historic and archival records help bring that picture into sharper focus by adding the details that archaeologists may never be able to visualize in their data.”

These exhibits follow from the excavation and archaeological dig in 2015 of the new Toronto courthouse site led by Infrastructure Ontario (IO), on behalf of the Ministry of the Attorney General. As part of the heritage interpretation efforts for the site, IO and the City of Toronto developed a partnership to create opportunities to share the artifacts and their stories in four display cases at City Hall. ERA has been pleased to offer expertise in this unique documentation of Toronto’s history, providing contextual research and interpretation for emergent themes, as well as designing the exhibit spaces in collaboration with City of Toronto Museums and Heritage Services.

The exhibit is on view during regular public hours in City Hall’s main floor rotunda, located adjacent to both the east and west elevator bays, and will be on display through to Spring 2019.


ERA would like to give a special thanks to our project partners:
Ainsley Davidson, Infrastructure Ontario
Abbey Flower, Infrastructure Ontario
Geoff Woods, Infrastructure Ontario
Wayne Reeves, City of Toronto Museums and Heritage Services
Christophe Jivraj, City of Toronto Museums and Heritage Services
Holly Martelle, Timmins Martelle Heritage Consultants
Nicole Brandon, Timmins Martelle Heritage Consultants


*SAVE THE DATE*

Upcoming performances from The Ward Cabaret this winter:
February 4, 2019 at the Bluma Appel Theatre, Toronto Reference Library
February 5, 2019 at Hugh’s Room (link to tickets here)

JUNO Award-winning musician and composer David Buchbinder is joined by a collaborative team of musicians, singers, and actors for an abridged version of The Ward Cabaret, a musical event based on the songs and sounds of Toronto’s first cross-cultural community.

Our Growing Leadership Team

As ERA continues to grow and evolve, the Executives and Associates are very pleased to welcome Sydney Martin to the leadership team as our newest Associate.

Sydney has been with ERA for nearly a decade as a heritage conservation specialist whose expertise in architectural history, historic construction techniques and materials, and material repair has been a tremendous and integral asset to our team. Her portfolio of work at ERA has included all stages of the project lifecycle, from assessment and evaluation to conservation strategy, development and implementation, interpretation, and long term management plans for significant projects, including the Ontario Legislative Building at Queen’s Park, Maple Leaf Gardens, Osgoode Hall, and the Senate of Canada’s temporary new home, the Government Conference Centre in Ottawa.

Sydney is a member of the Canadian Association of Heritage Professionals (CAHP) and is a graduate of the Willowbank School of Restoration Arts, and of Fine Art History & Architecture at the University of Toronto.

We look forward to this new chapter and the exciting work ahead!

 

 

 

Creative Space & Urban Stone: Public Talk

Stone is the most fundamental material but over the last 50 years its creative use has declined in the public realm. Through a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellowship David F. Wilson aimed to discover how other creatives are exploring the space between tradition & current practice, travelling in the USA & Canada through the summer months of 2017.

Where problems exist, new opportunities open up. Using photos and examples, David’s talk will explore the findings of his North American tour, the challenges posed to creative stone craft through modern building practice, and innovative ways to keep stone craft alive in urban spaces.

Through the lens of his landscape architecture practice and university teaching, Brendan Stewart will respond to the report and extend the conversation, relating these findings, challenges and opportunities to urban spaces in Toronto and Canada.

Report here: https://www.wcmt.org.uk/fellows/reports/creative-space-contemporary-use-stone-urban-spaces


A public talk by David F Wilson (UK) in conversation with Brendan Stewart (University of Guelph), co-hosted with the Dry Stone Walling Association of Canada (Dry Stone Canada).
REGISTER HERE VIA EVENTBRITE 

Doors at 6:30pm, Talk begins 7:00pm
625 Church Street, Toronto

3 minute walk from Bloor-Yonge Station (TTC)
Car and Bike Parking at the rear of building (Impark Parking)
This venue has elevator access and an accesible washroom

Reception to follow, generously sponsored by Jonathan Kearns, Founding Principal of Kearns Mancini Architects (B.ARCH., OAA, FRAIC, RIBA, FRIAI, AIBC, AANB, AAA) and Member Dry Stone Canada


David F. Wilson
Artist, Designer, Waller, Maker
Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellow and author of Creative Space: Contemporary use of stone in urban spaces

David graduated in 1987 from Duncan of Jordanstone, Dundee, with a Masters in Public Art & Design. Following a college art degree, he was inspired by a new trend for artists to work outside the traditional gallery system and decided to pursue a creative career in art for a wider public.

Flexibility has always been an asset in David’s practice when creating works in a public space. Every client & every different situation requires a unique design solution. Combining creativity with a playfulness of technique and form has always been at the heart of his process.

Two public projects that display this aspect well are the Edinburgh Airport Interchange and Livingston Landmarks. The latter was awarded the coveted Pinnacle Award from the Dry Stone Walling Association of Great Britain.


Brendan Stewart
Assistant Professor, Landscape Architecture, University of Guelph; past Associate, ERA Architects, Toronto

Brendan Stewart received his BLA from Guelph, attended Edinburgh College of Art, and received an MLA from the University of California, Berkeley. Brendan’s research focuses on heritage conservation planning and design processes, cultural landscape theory, design history, service learning and participatory design practices.

Throughout his more than a decade of practice experience, Brendan has been actively engaged in the academic, professional, and community spheres. He has been a regular guest lecturer, critic, and instructor at the University of Toronto, Ryerson University, and the University of Waterloo, and was an editorial board member of Ground Magazine, the journal of the OALA.

In 2015, he was involved in organizing and participating in the ‘Leading with Landscape’ conference in Toronto, hosted by the Washington DC based Cultural Landscape Foundation, which was attended by over 400 landscape practitioners and scholars from around the world. He is a director of the Friends of Allan Gardens a not for profit organization with a mission to revitalize one of Toronto’s earliest designed landscapes. Starting in 2017, Brendan is the University of Guelph’s appointed educator to the Ontario Association of Landscape Architects governing council.

 

TALLINN–TORONTO: The Influence of Estonian Modernism in Shaping Toronto

Toronto in Estonian: Section of exhibition at the Museum of Estonian Architecture.

This spring, the exhibition To The New World: Estonian Architects in Toronto launched at the Museum of Estonian Architecture (http://www.arhitektuurimuuseum.ee/en/). Following a smaller exhibition and symposium last fall hosted by Toronto’s Tartu College, the show explores the strong Estonian link in the creation of Toronto’s particular branch of modernism.

Exhibition and Symposium in fall of 2017 at Toronto’s Tartu College with ERA’s Graeme Stewart as presenter.

These exhibitions, and forthcoming book, are a result of years of research by Tallinn Architecture Centre archivist Jarmo Kauge. Following with curiosity the rise in cult status of Estonian-Canadian Uno Prii, whose large cannon of whimsically optimistic modernism have become local icons (and protected heritage properties), Jarmo began to explore the link between Estonian trained architects and the building of modern Toronto. Through a series of study tours, he quickly realized that the connection went well beyond Prii and that an entire generation of Estonian emigres practiced, taught, and transformed Toronto.

The opening of the exhibition at the Museum of Estonian Architecture represents a milestone for the international exposure of modernism in Toronto as well as the transatlantic scholarship that affected architectural and planning practice in post-war Toronto. ERA is proud to have been a collaborator in these efforts and congratulates Jarmo for the tremendous work in making it a reality.

Toronto in Estonian: Section of exhibition at the Museum of Estonian Architecture.

Toronto in Estonian: Section of exhibition at the Museum of Estonian Architecture.

For more on on Toronto’s Estonian modernism, the works of Prii and other Estonian Canadian architects feature strongly in both Concrete Toronto https://www.eraarch.ca/project/concrete-toronto/

(ERA / Coach House) and the Concrete Toronto Map https://bluecrowmedia.com/collections/architecture-maps/products/concrete-toronto-map (ERA / Bluecrow Media).

Also see an article by the Globe & Mail’s Dave LeBlanc published during the Toronto launch of the exhibition last fall.

ERA Has Moved to 625 Church Street

For two decades, we have called 10 St Mary Street our home, an eight storey modernist office building (1957) designed by the architects Mathers and Haldenby, whose offices were located on the 8th floor of the building. It seems fitting today as we say goodbye and start a new chapter in ERA’s story, that we’d share some of the history of this place that’s grown along with us all these years.

10 St Mary Street, in all its modernist glory, 1957. (Archives of Ontario)

The ground floor suite of 10 St. Mary Street, which faces both Yonge and St. Mary streets, was originally conceived as a retail space with a strong relationship to the public realm. Until recently, this suite has been occupied by a chain of fast food restaurants. The open volume at the base of the building has been partially enclosed as a restaurant terrace.

The original entry to 10 St Mary Street boasted exquisite mosaic tile work. (Archives of Ontario)

The Site sits on land originally owned by the Buchanan and Elmsley families in the early 19th century. In 1848 Captain John Elmsley donated part of his land to St. Michael’s College and St. Basil’s Church and began subdividing the property, naming local streets after his favourite saints. Many of the buildings that presently occupy the block bounded by Yonge, St. Mary, St. Nicholas and Charles streets were constructed during the latter half of the 19th and early 20th centuries, following the extension of Charles Street (formerly Czar Street) westward from Yonge Street in the 1880s. As Yonge Street developed as a commercial strip, cross streets were often developed with row houses. The length of the block along Charles Street West up to the westward addition to 720 Yonge Street is occupied by a row of residential buildings constructed in 1891.

The Yonge Street properties (with the exception of the mid-century building at 10 St. Mary Street) represent the second generation of storefronts along the Yonge Street corridor, which was revitalized with increased commercial activity at the turn of the last century. These were constructed in 1909 as a parade of shops with similar detailing; The mid-block shopfront properties at 710-718 Yonge Street first appear on Fire Insurance Plans in 1912.

The portion of the Site at the corner of St. Mary and St. Nicholas Streets was originally residential, but primary source documents show automotive uses began in the early 20th century and continued until the 1940s. In the 1920s the Holden Vulcanizing Works and Johnson Motors Repair operated at 79 St. Nicholas Street. The Uptown Auto Body and Fender Repair Co. were replaced in the 1940s by General Auto Body and later Pep Boys Garage.

Coles Bookstore purchased the Barron properties in the 1940s, using the Yonge Street storefront for retail and the former stables on St. Nicholas for storage. The fine-grained Victorian buildings along the southern portion of the block were replaced in 1957 by the 8-storey office building at 10 St. Mary Street, designed by Mathers & Haldenby. In the latter half of the 20th century, the properties on St. Nicholas Street witnessed a string of tenants and a wide variety of uses, including furniture stores, art galleries, restaurants and discotheques.

The evolution of the block over the past century. (ERA Architects)

Our office will be closed on Friday, June 15, while we pack up and head just down the street to 625 Church Street, and we’ll be back to regular business on Monday, June 18.
OUR NEW ADDRESS IS: #600-625 Church St, Toronto ON, M4Y 2G1

ERA & CaGBC: Sustainable Development

Late last month, on Thursday April 26th, the Toronto Chapter of the Canadian Green Building Council met for their annual Spring Open event. Hosted at the newly opened EY Tower downtown, the event included a series of rapid and informative presentations known as the event’s “Building Blitz” —highlighting the newest and most sustainable buildings in Southern Ontario.

ERA’s Shelley Ludman was invited to speak about the adaptive reuse of 158 Sterling Road, the new home of Toronto’s Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA). We were honoured to present on the often overlooked importance of adaptive reuse as a strategy for a sustainable future.

Other presentations included: 

  • 80 Atlantic Avenue, Presented by Quadrangle
  • Zero House at the Endeavour Centre, Presented by Ryerson University, Department of Architectural Science
  • Kiln Building at Evergreen Brick Works, Presented by LGA Architectural Partners
  • University of Toronto – The Centre for Engineering Innovation & Entrepreneurship, Presented by Montgomery Sisam Architects Inc. 
  • York University Student Centre, Presented by CannonDesign

National Housing Strategy Forwards Tower Renewal

This month ERA Principal Graeme Stewart joined federal, provincial and municipal leaders at the launch of the first round of National Housing Strategy programs, kicking off a new era for housing in Canada.

As a major step in catalyzing Tower Renewal, the National Housing Co-Investment Fund’s ‘Repair and Renewal’ stream targets the repair of 240,000 units, with $2.26 billion in capital contributions and $3.46 billion in low-cost, long-term loans. This stream will help to catalyze Tower Renewal across the country, benefiting Canadians living in both public and privately-owned housing.

These programs represent significant investments toward the preservation of existing housing, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions through retrofits, and the crucial maintenance of this stock’s affordability and ongoing social sustainability.

The Tower Renewal Partnership, a collaborative led by the Centre for Urban Growth and Renewal, welcomes these new programs and their potential to catalyse major shifts nation-wide toward the renewal of Canada’s aging housing stock. In the coming months, the TRP will continue to work with a broad cross-section of stakeholders — including residents, owners, industry, nonprofits, and governments — to demonstrate the potential of renewal projects to lead the way in envisioning healthy, secure, and affordable housing for all Canadians.

Concrete Toronto Map available now!

In partnership with Blue Crow Media, ERA is excited to present the Concrete Toronto Map, now available in stores and online.

A companion to Concrete Toronto, the map offers a guide to the City’s longstanding concrete architecture, showcasing a collection of over 40 well-known landmarks and smaller projects built from the 1950s to 1980s. The Map has been highlighted for its celebration of this mid-century building stock.

London-based Blue Crow Media,  specializes in architecture maps from around the world and has released maps from major cities such as Paris, London and New York. See more on the Toronto Concrete Map and others here.

Copies of the new Concrete Toronto map are now available at the U of T Bookstore “Toronto” section, near the concrete buildings on campus, and Spacing Magazine.

Concrete Toronto is available from Coach House books at https://chbooks.com/Books/C/Concrete-Toronto

Government Conference Centre: Progress on Heritage Interiors

The heritage interiors and finishes are coming to life at the Government Conference Centre (GCC) in Ottawa. Since the new year, the scaffolding has come down in the General Waiting Room (GWR, as shown here), revealing the rehabilitated suspended ceiling in its entirety and the recently painted imitation travertine wall finishes.

The GWR is an elaborate and significant interior space, part of the formal processional route bringing visitors through the building to some of its grandest interiors. As a visitor enters through the Rideau Entrance Lobby, down the grand stair, they find themselves here: viewing the building’s Beaux-Arts features evident in its monumental use of classical forms such as the columns, entablatures, pilasters, arches and vaults.

The GCC Rehabilitation Project is transforming the former Ottawa Union Station into an Interim Senate Facility for ten years, after which it will revert back to its role as the GCC. The rehabilitation aims to reveal the historical elements of the building that were concealed over time, such as its theatrical qualities and rich palette of materials.

ERA Architects is working as the heritage architects with Diamond Schmitt/KWC Architects in Joint Venture.

Photos courtesy of ERA Architects.

Our Expanding Leadership Team

As ERA continues to grow and evolve, ERA’s executive and associate team is thrilled to announce the appointment of seven new associates: Alexis Cohen, Dan Eylon, Samantha Irvine, Shelley Ludman, Jordan Molnar, Annie Pelletier, and Janice Quieta.

We’re very pleased to recognize the leadership of these new associates and their commitment to ERA’s core values. We also appreciate the energy they bring to their work, their individual perspectives on city-building and cultural planning, and the professional expertise they offer our clients and their colleagues at ERA.

Congratulations to all!

 

Alexis Cohen is trained as an architectural historian and brings her research background to a range of heritage planning projects at ERA. She works collaboratively with complex project teams using historical research and analysis to inform the conservation of evolving urban environments.

 

Annie Pelletier possesses nearly a decade of work experience on projects between New York and Toronto, managing project types from residential to institutional, on a mixture of new-build, adaptive re-use, extensions and conservation work.

 

Dan Eylon collaborates with differing levels of government, engaging in a broad range of conservation and planning projects. He is driven to make a meaningful contribution to the quality of urban development and heritage resource management.

 

Janice Quieta has studied and worked in Toronto, Halifax, Dusseldorf, and Koln and participated in a number of national and international design competitions in Canada and Germany. She is interested in sustainable technology at the intersection of new and existing materials.

 

Jordan Molnar’s project experience is both broad and deep, including heritage conservation, adaptive-reuse, and renovations/additions. He compliments his architecture portfolio with interests in small community development through Culture of Outports and Small, participating in community feasibility studies, community workshops and design-build projects.

 

Samantha Irvine oversees projects that impact culturally significant buildings, neighbourhoods and landscapes. She is committed to creating opportunities for historic buildings to enrich urban life. Her perspective is informed by the uncommon combination of a legal background and experience in both heritage conservation and community planning.

 

Shelley Ludman has been involved in significant conservation and adaptive re-use projects within the cities of Montreal and Toronto, including additions to existing heritage designated properties, drawing inspiration from existing buildings and their surrounding context.

Kensington Market Lofts Presents a Gateway of Colour to the Neighbourhood

The scaffolding has finally come down to reveal the brilliant collection of 17 colours featured on the east façade of the Kensington Market Lofts building, a public art piece created by notable local artist and area resident An Te Lui! Inspired by the culturally-diverse public realm in which it is located, it as a gateway to the neighbourhood.

Located at 160 Baldwin Street, the Kensington Market Lofts was built in 1952 by George Brown College to house their technical school, was and attached to an older red brick school building dating from 1923. The new addition was clad in glazed yellow terra-cotta blocks, which over time had begun to allow water to infiltrate its steel support structure. ERA has worked with the condo board on a long-term multi-stage revitalization of the buildings, including interior finish upgrades and wayfinding, as well as developing an extensive program of façade remediation.

It was determined that the east façade was at particular risk of future infiltration, and that a robust over cladding strategy would be required to protect the steel structure once remediated. Simultaneously the remaining terracotta blocks could be salvaged for use in preserving the original features of the building on the remaining facades. In addition to its functional necessity, ERA and the condo board viewed the proposed over cladding as a unique opportunity for the building to contribute to the public realm, and asked An Te Liu to develop a pattern that could speak to the building’s important context within Kensington Market.

An Te Liu’s concept for the colour configuration was based a pattern depicting the neighbourhood’s historic diversity, the distribution of the colours being drawn from an analysis of the percentage of those present in the world’s national flags. The significance of the approach is that the material sits comfortably within its bohemian context as it complements the existing vibrant-coloured awnings, shops and graffiti that energize the streetscape. The project faces one of Toronto’s most important thoroughfares, providing a landmark that will invite people into the market at one of its primary entrances. It is a physical manifestation and embodiment of the eclectic spirit and energy of the market.

Congratulations to ERA’s project team: Graeme Stewart, Max Berg, and Leah Gibling!

To access the recent Globe and mail article on this project by David LeBlanc, click here.
To access recent CODAmagazine coverage on this project, click here.

Images by An Te Liu and Vik Pahwa.

Tower Renewal in 2017

The Tower Renewal strategy has had significant impact over the past year. Across all levels of government, there is a growing consensus: Tower Renewal can have a scalable impact nation-wide as a means to meet climate change, affordable housing, poverty reduction, smart growth, and economic development objectives. Some highlights include:

1. Announcement of $15.9B Co-Investment Fund, committing to the rehabilitation of 240,000 units of existing affordable housing as part of Canada’s landmark National Housing Strategy.

2. $350M allocated towards apartment retrofit through Ontario’s Social Housing Apartment Retrofit Program (SHARP) and Social Housing Apartment Improvement Program (SHAIP) with the first round of projects underway.

3. Release of Transform TO, a strategy adopted by Toronto City Council that will require every multi-unit residential building (MURB) to undergo deep energy retrofit by 2050.

4. Intermunicipal Working Group convened with representatives from Ontario’s four largest cities: Toronto, Hamilton, Mississauga and Ottawa working toward a collaborative Tower Renewal framework. 

5. Provincial collaboration toward Tower Renewal action. Initiated in 2017, five provincial ministries are coordinating to tackle the question of enabling Tower Renewal in Ontario through housing rehabilitation and neighbourhood growth planning.

6. The Tower Renewal Action Forum brought together international experts and local city-builders to explore innovative strategies for transitioning aging tower neighbourhoods to meet the demands of our 21st century cities with welcome remarks from Mayor of Toronto,  John Tory and the Minister of Housing, Peter Milczyn.

7. 500 tower sites in the City of Toronto rezoned through the launch of the RAC Zone, removing barriers to Complete Community objectives being met on tower sites. CUG+R, the Tower and Neighbourhood Revitalization UnitUnited Way Toronto and York Region, and Toronto Public Health won the 2017 OPPI Excellence in Planning Award for the implementation of this work.

8. New primary research underway towards a comprehensive Tower Renewal framework: Retrofit Finance Analysis for a nation-wide retrofit program prepared by the Tower Renewal Partnership and the National Housing Collaborative, and a study on Housing Quality and Standards prepared by CUG+R and Transsolar in partnership with Maytree identifying standards to ensure healthy, safe, and resilient retrofits.

9. University Research Network established, harnessing applied graduate student research on Tower Renewal at five academic institutions across Ontario.

10. Unit Retrofit Challenge initiated, creating a prototype to engage owners and industry in research, development, monitoring, and verification of local best practices on a single-unit basis.

In 2018, work continues by a diverse set of partners to continue to enable Tower Renewal and the Tower Renewal Partnership continues to be a catalyst for this progress through ongoing research, policy advocacy, and action.

Urban Form and Social Energy of the City- the University of Waterloo focuses on isolation in Toronto’s mature suburbs

This March, ERA’s Ya’el Santopinto was a panelist at the “Urban Form and Social Energy of the City”, a forum hosted by the University of Waterloo’s School of Architecture. Under the overarching theme of non-isolating urbanism and architecture, discussions explored challenges and opportunities in preserving affordable housing and transforming tower neighbourhoods throughout the Toronto Region.

Alongside Ya’el were Martine August from the University of Waterloo Planning and George Baird from the University of Toronto, Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design with Adrian Blackwell as Moderator.

For more information, visit the University’s event page here.

Header image courtesy of the University of Waterloo Architecture’s Instagram account.

Casey House is Awarded the Lieutenant Governor’s Ontario Heritage Award for Excellence in Conservation

The 2017 Lieutenant Governor’s Ontario Heritage Award for Excellence in Conservation has been awarded to ERA Architects, for the conservation of Casey House. The award highlights projects across the province that contribute to the conservation of a heritage building and the community enhancement it fosters. The firm is thrilled, and could not have successfully completed this endeavor without collaboration from Hariri Pontarini Architects and the broader community.

Casey House is a significant visual reminder of the affluence and grandeur of Jarvis street during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The property has been redeveloped as a state-of-the-art AIDS/HIV healthcare facility that integrates the historic building with a new four-storey extension.  The design of the contemporary facility juxtaposed against the Victorian mansion is a distinct but complementary addition by Hariri Pontarini. It embraces and respects the existing building, preserving its qualities and organizing the day-to-day user experience. Throughout the project, the architects considered how to manifest unifying themes from the AIDS movement such as ‘embrace’ and ‘quilt’ by working the design concept from the inside out.

The conservation strategy was to retain and conserve the heritage fabric, replacing deteriorated elements where necessary. The preservation of the exterior was extensive, including the removal of paint from the masonry, repointing of brickwork, the replacement of stone bands, the fabrication and installation of new window boxes, and new lead-coated copper spiralettes on the roof. The iron fence was repaired and repainted, and the wall it sits on was cleaned, re-pointed, and any deteriorated stone replaced. The interior preservation included the repair and repainting of the plasterwork, the development of the colour scheme, preservation of the fireplaces, and repair of the mosaic flooring in the vestibule. The woodwork was repaired and refinished, and the timber flooring repaired and re-stained. A high degree of durability in the finishes was required to withstand the rigours of the daily/weekly cleaning regimes required of a hospital. Casey House is Canada’s first and only stand-alone hospital for people living with HIV/AIDS.  

In spite of the complexity involved with designing a health facility, the preservation and restoration of the original building—an example of the grand homes that lined Jarvis Street at the time of its development—was at the forefront of discussions when expanding the facility first arose.

At its heart, the redevelopment of Casey House was a community-inspired and driven initiative, with stakeholders recognizing the importance of their generous contributions.

Congratulations to ERA’s project team: Michael McClelland, Edwin Rowse, Scott Weir, Jessie Grebenc, Joey Giaimo, Luke Denison,  and Mikael Sydor.

Related links:
https://www.eraarch.ca/project/239/
https://www.eraarch.ca/2017/a-hospital-with-heart-that-embraces-its-patients-celebrates-its-grand-reopening/
https://www.eraarch.ca/2017/capitalizing-on-heritage-awarding-conservation-materials-craftsmanship-and-construction/
http://www.heritagetrust.on.ca/en/index.php/media-releases/lieutenant-governors-ontario-heritage-awards-presentation

​Project photos are courtesy of Vik Pahwa.

The Legacy Lives On: Hamilton’s Built Heritage Inventory as an emerging practice in historic urban landscape stewardship

ERA Associate Victoria Angel’s article in Plan Magazine’s Winter Issue ‘Urban heritage: A living legacy’ on the UNESCO Historic Urban Landscape (HUL) Recommendation (2011) illustrates its implications and emerging practices, using the City of Hamilton’s Built Heritage Inventory as a case-study. The recommendation encourages a more holistic, integrative approach to urban heritage conservation, focusing on the urban landscape. It proposes that future considerations around urban development should enhance sustainability, functionality, inclusivity, place-making and local identities. Governments have experimented with its implementation, in spite of the complexity of the various urban systems.

Practices that have emerged as a result include a greater use of community consultation, and the characterization of large urban areas through the use of Geographical Information Systems (GIS), which integrate well with other municipal information systems.

Hamilton’s Built Heritage Inventory process was adopted by its City Council in the spring of 2014 and was the subject of a paper by Victoria Angel, Angela Garvey and Mikael Sydor that was published by the International Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing. The City of Hamilton intends to implement the strategy one neighbourhood at a time, at a citywide level.

By incorporating the HUL’s recommendations, ‘…Citywide surveys and inventories, landscape characterization, and an understanding of people’s perceptions of the places they inhabit could, in the future, be used by cities to identify a much broader range of conservation opportunities, better understand an area’s capacity to change and evolve, and reposition historic resources to serve as the springboard and foundation for new development….’

Article in CIP’s PLAN Canada Journal: http://www.kelmanonline.com/httpdocs/files/CIP/plancanadawinter2017/index.html
Related content: https://www.eraarch.ca/2017/hamiltons-durand-built-heritage-inventory-project-incorporates-digital-innovation-to-develop-a-citywide-approach-to-heritage-planning/
https://www.eraarch.ca/project/hamilton-downtown-built-heritage-inventory/
https://www.eraarch.ca/2013/9295/

All images courtesy of ERA Architects.

Archaeology in The Ward: A New Exhibit

Just a few steps northwest of Toronto’s city hall is a quiet, empty plot of land and a former parking lot that will soon be the home of the new Toronto courthouse. But long before this site was just a place to park, it was a bustling part of St John’s Ward (The Ward), an area where newcomers to Toronto established themselves for over a century. In 2015, Infrastructure Ontario (IO), on behalf of the Ministry of the Attorney General, led a complex excavation and archaeological dig of the new Toronto courthouse site which revealed tens of thousands of artifacts from The Ward, providing an unprecedented level of insight into Toronto’s early multicultural history. As part of the heritage interpretation efforts for the site, IO and the City of Toronto developed a partnership to create opportunities to share the artifacts and their stories in four display cases at City Hall.

Archaeology in The Ward display case, showing a selection of bottles and glassware recovered from the excavation site. An enlarged Goad’s Insurance Map of Toronto shows the site in context.

ERA Architects is no stranger to the histories related to The Ward—Michael McClelland and Tatum Taylor helped to literally write the book. As heritage professionals and editors of ‘The Ward: The Life and Loss of Toronto’s First Immigrant Neighbourhood’ (Coach House Books, 2015), they were well positioned to approach the exhibition project with a comprehensive understanding of the site context along with the ability to provide powerful interpretations for the subjects reflected by the artifacts. ERA has been pleased to offer our expertise in this unique documentation of Toronto’s history, providing contextual research and interpretation for emergent themes, as well as designing the exhibit spaces in collaboration with City of Toronto Museums and Heritage Services.

The first of many planned exhibit installations was officially opened in February 2017 with the Mayor’s Reception for Black History Month and featured stories and important artifacts focused on Black History in The Ward, including the foundation stones of the British Methodist Episcopal Church, and a rare Black doll’s head.

We are excited to announce the latest installation of the ‘Armoury Street Dig’ series of exhibits at City Hall has opened this past week. This latest installation focuses on ‘Work in the Ward,’ showing that with the rapid industrialization of the late 19th century, manufacturing moved from homes to factories. In The Ward, this industrial and social shift can be seen clearly, with factories steadily replacing houses between 1895 and 1950. The exhibit is open now and on view during regular public hours in city hall’s main floor rotunda, located adjacent to both the east and west elevator bays, and will be on display through spring of 2018.

In the west exhibit cases, artifacts from the ‘Armoury Street Dig’ highlight two 19th-century household industries that were prevalent on the site: shoemaking and tailoring. The excavation site includes one of the largest archaeological collections of 19th and early 20th-century shoes ever unearthed in Canada, most too fragile to display but documented by photographs and reproduction tools. Other artifacts on display include tools commonly used by tailors and seamstresses in the period: straight pins, buttons made of ceramic and glass, thimbles, wooden spools, and bodkins.

In the east exhibit cases, industry in factories is examined through narratives that range from small-scale family operations such as the Edward Lye and Sons Church Organ Builders which operated first out of their home, to the large-scale T. Eaton Co. Tent and Awning  Factory on Chestnut Street. On display are two moulds used in mass production: one small drawer handle mould, likely used in furniture manufacturing on the site, and a large rubber hat mould used to form men’s brimmed felt hats from the Fashion Hat & Cap Company, which occupied the former Eaton’s factory on Chestnut Street from the 1940s to the 1960s.

The exhibit is on view during regular public hours in city hall’s main floor rotunda, located adjacent to both the east and west elevator bays, and will be on display through spring of 2018.

Infrastructure Ontario is creating an online archive of past exhibit displays available at infrastructureontario.ca/armourystreetdig

Link to the Toronto Star’s coverage: https://www.thestar.com/news/immigration/2018/01/11/new-exhibit-sheds-light-on-torontos-early-immigrant-entrepreneurship.html

Related content:
https://www.eraarch.ca/2015/the-ward-a-new-book-coming-2015/
https://www.eraarch.ca/2015/the-ward-a-new-book-update/
https://www.eraarch.ca/2017/coming-up-the-ward-songs-and-sounds-of-a-lost-toronto-neighbourhood/

Post by guest writer Carl Shura.
All photos courtesy of ERA Architects and TMHC.

When Crazy Gets Creative

Crazy Dames Share their Innovative Approach to Community Engagement and Design Development

Inspired by the work of Jane Jacobs and a desire to use the artist’s studio as a site for fostering creative engagement, Jennie Suddick, and Sara Udow founded Crazy Dames. Their focus is on enhancing the user experience of urban spaces, empowering communities to drive the change they desire through ‘tactical and collaborative approaches’ to city-building. Crazy Dames utilize unconventional, yet playful methods from which innovative ideas evolve.

Their portfolio includes activities as diverse as building a blanket fort as part of a residency at the Gardiner Museum, entitled ‘We Built This City’. There they programmed events over the course of two weeks in the summer of 2016, including workshops, artist-led ‘walkshop’ walking tours, a collaborative art project, and closing event and panel discussion. The pair have also found attentive audiences through public engagement projects at the Yellowknife Artist Run Community Centre, and Create Your Path initiative.

In each case, they strive to create an experience that will bring broad communities together, break down barriers, and ignite their imaginations to ultimately express their thoughts/feelings about the city they live in, generating ideas for change. At the end of the day, it’s about talking to people, listening to divergent perspectives, and encouraging long-term community involvement and ownership.

Fast forward to August 2018, Jennie and Sara have been invited to participate in a residency in Valletta, Malta, European Capital of Culture. They have also recently been chosen as Varley Art Gallery’s inaugural Community Artists in Residence. This residency will run in 2018 in Markham, ON.

ERA was delighted to host them for an interactive presentation on Wednesday, January 10th, 2018, when they shared an informative slide presentation. Not wanting to rest solely on traditional methods however, they invited staff to get out of their seats, split into two groups and create a 3D drawing using balls of black yarn. The objective of the exercise was to define the space we were in, how it’s used and how it has evolved. The teams discussed various perspectives before creating two intricate webs. The communication and designs that resulted made for an interesting collaborative experience.

For more information visit: http://www.crazydames.com/
U of T News article: https://www.utoronto.ca/news/these-crazy-dames-want-us-rethink-way-we-engage-city

All photographs courtesy of Crazy Dames.

Nothing is Impossible: NXT City defines its strategies for city-building through an inspirational presentation at ERA

On December 13th, NXT City visited ERA to engage staff as part of our Wednesday Morning Forum ‘Spark Sessions’, a series of talks presented at ERA’s office by people and organizations who are at the forefront of their respective practices, and pushing the boundaries of design, policy and development in our city.

NXT City is a not-for-profit organization that unites the desire of emerging leaders to make a difference with city builders looking for innovative ideas to program and develop public space. It was established in 2013 by founders Christine Caruso, Mackenzie Keast and Justin Leclair, who have since garnered much attention for their exciting initiatives, such as an annual NXT City Prize, public space symposium, quarterly talks and secret warehouse parties.

In the early days, the team identified a gap in opportunities for Toronto’s current and future city-builders to assemble, in order to network, strengthen partnerships, and synergize ideas. As a result, they devised a strategy to connect various stakeholders whom they admire (Jennifer Keesmat was an early supporter), programming approachable, exciting events that draw people together to brainstorm on methods of reshaping the city in delightful, unexpected ways.

The various platforms compliment and reinforce their objective: the NXT City Prize was initiated as an opportunity to encourage and reward thought leadership on relevant topics. Teams are invited to submit proposals for jury review based solely on the quality of the idea. The NXT City Symposium promotes itself as ‘public space on a global stage’, offering up discussions on civic innovation and ideas by industry leaders challenging the boundaries and limitations of public space. The mix of speakers is a potential tension-builder, arranged as a counter-point to create a more meaningful dialogue. The NXT City Talks are small-scale panels with a ‘how to’ approach to project development. The secret warehouse parties offer an opportunity for the community at large to connect and celebrate all that is exciting and ground-breaking in the Toronto region and beyond.

To gain more insight on NXT City visit: https://nxtcity.ca/

Photos courtesy of Nicky Brunn-Meyer

The Broadview Hotel’s terracotta panels have a story to tell

Much has been spoken and written of the Broadview Hotel over the past few years. Having opened last spring, the updated landmark at the corner of Queen and Broadview has already established itself as the new go-to site for entertainment in the Riverdale neighbourhood. With all the positive attention, comes increased interest in the building’s history and the stories that continue to be revealed.

One such story can be found in the features that adorn the exterior of the Richardsonian Romanesque-style architecture, the semi-circular terracotta panels that sit atop the third-floor arched windows, and those interspersed amoungst the rich surface textures of the brick enhancements, and the moulded profiles of the arches. Twenty-one modeled reliefs provide a decorative element, featuring faces and personifications that may allude to a narrative that is not understood and could be open to interpretation.

Though the artisans are not known, the reliefs were supplied by the Toronto Pressed Brick and Terracotta Company, started in 1888 and based 2 miles west of Milton, ON. The factory was situated on a slope near the Credit River, where Medina shale was available. The main product was pressed brick. Moulded and ornamental bricks, roofing tiles and terra cotta were considered a specialty. In 1906 the company was bought by Charles Lewis. He and his brothers focused on fine terra cotta works, the only large company in Canada to do so. Many office buildings and private residences were adorned with their product, such as the 1890’s Confederation Life Building, and the Gooderham Building in Toronto.

The typical production process involved taking ground shale, kneading into a soft condition and casting it in Plaster of Paris moulds made from design drawings. The Broadview Hotel reliefs however were completed only by hand and they have a variety of textures and finishes that reveal the energy of the work and the skill of the author. Finished pieces were set to dry prior to being fired in a down-draft kiln.

The reliefs have multiple personifications of the wind, sun and moon. As companion panels these are interspersed with a series of faces; a canine, a bearded man, an Indigenous man, an owl and a boar. The collective meaning of these panels is open for interpretation.

Photography courtesy of Steven Evans

A once-popular historic Mackinac Island retreat is in the process of being restored to its former glory

ERA is highly anticipating the completion of their latest project in Michigan, Silver Birches Resort. Built between 1906-1912, it is a well-loved landmark on the remote north shore of Mackinac Island. The Lodge is a rare example of a rustic log hotel and is included on the State Register of Historic Sites.

This helped spread a uniquely North American architectural vernacular that was ideally suited to rustic summer structures.

This vernacular has been embraced and highlighted. The client’s family are heavily-invested in the region and its prosperity. Possessing a deep desire to understand the property and to restore it in a way that honoured the architecture and its surrounds, they became intimately engaged with the site during the early renovations. Mackinac Island, ‘the crown jewel of Michigan’, is regaining its lustre.

The project team have spent the last four years managing the site as design lead in support of the local architecture firm and project manager, and coordinated the work of the various consultants. The scope included the complete restoration of the site’s “Yellow Cottage”, and the extension and refinishing of its “Blue Cottage”. Also included was the preservation and restoration of the lodge’s ground floor log assembly, the rebuilding of its wrap around log veranda with code-compliant replacements, and the complete re-build of the upper two storeys to match the appearance, form and materiality of the original.

The project team includes:
Scott Weir – Principal
Brendan Stewart – Associate
Sandford Riley – Project Manager
Rui Felix – Landscape Designer

Links to related articles:
https://mynorth.com/2016/08/historic-mackinac-island-lodge-silver-birches-undergoing-renovations/
https://www.freep.com/story/travel/2016/07/09/grand-hotel-resort-hotel-mackinac/86716566/
https://savingplaces.org/stories/silver-birches-polishing-a-jewel-at-michigans-mackinac-island#.WirAvbQ-dUN

Link to related blog post:
https://www.eraarch.ca/2016/mission-point-resort/

In-House Experts: Heritage Mortars 101 & Heritage Interiors

Although there is obvious benefit to be drawn from the synergy created from ‘the whole’, we would be remiss if we did not recognize and highlight the individual expertise that makes up the sum of ERA’s parts. Staff have been treated to two presentations recently that featured their peers introducing topics for which they possess expertise through weekly ongoing information session series.

First up, ERA Associate Jessie Grebenc gave a talk on ‘Heritage Mortars 101’ as part of the Wednesday Design Forum series. The presentation led in with the philosophical decision-making process required to conserve a building. More thoroughly, it defined mortar, its components, uses and evolution, how to determine its age based on set analytical criteria and the related issues/challenges that arise under various circumstances (such as Canadian vs. European material, manufacturing and climactic contexts). The presentation was intended to give staff a solid foundation on the topic, discuss best practices from the North American and British contexts, and review the options available given the multiple factors surrounding the project.

ERA Associate Jan Kubanek and Project Manager Sydney Martin presented on the topic of ‘Heritage Interiors’, highlighting the project work completed to date on the Government Conference Centre (GCC) in Ottawa and a review of the topics presented at the Architectural Paint Research Conference in New York City that they attended in the spring.

Jan provided an overview of the GCC Rehabilitation Project currently underway that is transforming the former Ottawa Union Station into an Interior Senate facility, a project on which ERA is the heritage conservation architect working with Diamond Schmitt/KWC Architects in Joint Venture. The Beaux-Arts interiors are characterized by a formal procession route taking the visitor through the Rideau Entrance Lobby, down a grand stair into the General Waiting Room, through the Ticketing Block Anteroom and into the Concourse.

Finishes include marble floors and wall paneling, imitation travertine wall finishes (a patented process involving the application of tinted plaster with a texture characteristic of travertine laid in ashlar coursing, elaborate plaster ceilings and suspended plaster ceilings in the two large spaces.  The rehabilitation project, through careful paint and material analysis, allowed the revealing of the original colour and material palette of the building that had been concealed over time.

Sydney Presented on aspects of paint technology, assessment and methodology and how they apply to ERA’s work on the GCC.  Due to the condition of the original faux travertine plaster walls (scagliola) and the extreme difficulty of using the original plaster technique for repairs it was decided to replicate the original appearance of the tinted plaster faux travertine with paint and provide a unified appearance. Her presentation focused on the development of the paint technique and colour selection for the imitation travertine surfaces that honour the original design intent. The colours for the faux travertine were derived from analysis of the original tinted plaster.  The painted technique was meticulously tested on mock surfaces and under various lighting to emulate the original faux travertine surfaces in the building.

She then shared details of her experience at the conference, including a presentation by a Painting Conservator/Consultant, and a tour of Ellis Island featuring installations by French artist JR entitled ‘Unframed’ that added a layer of heritage interpretation to the abandoned spaces as a reminder of their purpose as an entry point to America for millions of immigrants.

All photography courtesy of ERA Architects.
All historic images accredited to the Library and Archives Canada.
All renderings accredited to DSA-KWC Architects in Joint Venture.